Jharkhand works to regain lost irrigation capacity

Jharkhand works to regain lost irrigation capacity

Ranchi, June 22 (IANS) It’s a hard push that Jharkhand’s farmers have been waiting for. Finally, irrigation projects in the state are back on the government’s agenda. Work has begun to regain irrigation capacity in this state, which has seen successive droughts.

“We have started work to regain the lost irrigation capacity in a phased manner. Work on 30 of the 102 irrigation projects have started which will help irrigate 56,742 hectares,” Suhkdeo Singh, Principal Secretary of the water resources department, told IANS.

According to him, the department has prepared a Detailed Project Report (DPR) on 15 irrigation projects that will irrigate 39,340 hectares of land. The department has set a target of 2017-2018 for these projects.

The DPR for the other projects is also being prepared, with 2019 as the target year.

Because of these pending irrigation projects Jharkhand’s exchequer has been bleeding over the decades. Like the proverbial white elephant, these projects guzzled money even as irrigation in large parts of the state remained a distant dream.

So how bleak is the situation right now? According to official data, only about 22 percent of the cultivable land in the state is covered by the irrigation system that is in place today. It means the farmers in the state are largely dependent on rain water.

“A total of 102 irrigation projects were completed three to four decades ago, but due to lack of maintenance the irrigation capacity was lost. Today only 82,065 hectares of land is irrigated against 218,330 hectares in Jharkhand,” Singh said.

The irrigation projects in Jharkhand were conceived about four decades back when it was part of Bihar. Since then billions have been spent on these projects even as the cost kept increasing manifold.

For example, Swarnrekha Multi Purpose Project (SMPP) — the biggest irrigation project in the state — was conceived in 1973. In the year 1978 its cost was estimated at Rs 128.99 crore. The estimate was revised in 2011 to Rs 6,613.74 crore. Till February 2015, the expenditure was about Rs 3,575 crore.

Even though work for eight major and 18 medium projects is going on for the last three decades, the delay is affecting the finances of this state and also adding to the woes of the farmers.

But now the government is taking a serious note of the situation and hoping to expand the irrigation system effectively.

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